How Did Ben Affleck Go from Armageddon to Argo?

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Try to think back to Ben Affleck circa 2000, in the years after Good Will Hunting and before he directed Gone Baby Gone. The Daredevil years. The Bennifer years. There might be a bit of cognitive dissonance, but yes, that’s the same guy who directed and stars in Argo, the true-life Iran hostage crisis thriller (out Oct. 12) that TIME’s Richard Corliss says has strong Oscar chances. (Read the full review here.) It’s been a long effort for Affleck to make his public persona match the way he sees himself, a effort that Argo may push fully into the “success” column—but none of it has been by chance.

In this week’s issue of TIME, Joel Stein writes about how Affleck made a conscious decision to be a serious guy—a nice guy, but a serious nice guy—who makes serious movies, and how he managed to do it so well.

Here’s a hint: “The heroism [in Argo] is more compelling for being real,” Affleck told Stein. “We had no jet rays in the superhero movie I did.”

Read the full story in this week’s issue of TIME.

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